32 terms only airmen will understand

As the youngest member of the U.S. armed forces, the Air Force gets a lot of flak from other branches, despite having the capacity to (arguably) destroy all life on Earth in 30 minutes. In its relative short history, its Airmen evolved a culture and language all their own.

“Airman Snuffy”

The original Dirtbag Airman, he’s an example Air Force instructors use to train Airmen how not to do the wrong things in hypothetical situations. The difference between the example and the real Airman Snuffy is the real Snuffy is a Medal of Honor recipient. He tried to put out a deadly aircraft fire by pissing on it while simultaneously shooting down Nazi fighter planes.

What the Piss

This is the trademark, go-to phrase said (yelled) by Air Force Military Training Instructors (MTI). From Zero Week until graduation, anytime you forget where you are, you’ll hear this phrase right before you get a reminder. Only MTIs know why they chose this. It could be a tribute to Airman Snuffy.

The Snake Pit

Where Air Force MTIs eat, usually right at the end of the chow line, so every Airman trainee has to walk by to get to their table.

House Mouse

Never to be referred to as such – it is technically the Flight Office Technician, aka the MTI’s assistant. See also: Snitch.

Staff Sgt. Robert George, a military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, marches his unit following the issuance of uniforms and gear. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

Stress Cards

The most persistent myth about the Air Force. Other branches think we get these during basic training in case we need “to take a moment.” These have never existed and never will, but because of the Air Force’s old six-week basic training length, it sure sounds plausible. If the USAF ever did try this, the ghost of Curtis LeMay would burn the Air Force Secretary’s house down.

Rainbow Flights

Before basic trainees get their first uniform issue (aka “slicksleeves”) at Lackland, they’re usually walking around in the civvies in which they first arrived. In formation, they look like a dirtbag rainbow and probably smell bad because they have been wearing these clothes for 2-4 days.

Reporting Statement

“Sir/Ma’am, Trainee ________ reports as ordered,” the phrase you give an MTI anytime you need to respond to an inquiry.

AF Form 341

Excellence Discrepancy Report – Every Airman in Basic Training and Technical School must carry at least three of these small forms on their person at all times. When you screw up, one will be demanded of you and turned into your training unit. The 341 is an excellent way to introduce Airmen to the primary Air Force disciplinary system – Paperwork. Rumors of this form being used to report excellence are unsubstantiated.

air force bazooka

Here, Staff Sgt. Michael Sheehan fires a man-portable aircraft survivability trainer, or MAST, at Saylor Creek Range at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Nutri-Grain Bar Prank

More advanced basic trainees will sometimes tell newer trainees they can’t eat the Nutri-Grain Bars at breakfast unless they take the bar, slam it on the Snake Pit’s table and shout out what flavor it is, then stand at parade rest until given permission to digest.

Dirtbag Airman (DBA)

The chaff that fell through the cracks — The Dirtbag Airman has no regard for regulations, dress and appearance, customs and courtesies, or even personal hygiene. It shows up late with Starbucks cups and takes the most breaks while doing the least work.

Pull Chocks

Refers to pulling the wedges used to prevent a stationary aircraft from moving while parked on the flightline. Also known as “Let’s go” or “Let’s get out of here,” in Air Force parlance, because you have to pull the chocks before the plane can leave the base.

DFAC

The Air Force does not have Chow Halls or Mess Tents. It has Dining Facilities (or DFACs). Referring to the building in which Airmen who do not have the time to go to the BX Food Court or Burger King as a “Chow Hall” actually offends senior enlisted Food Service Craftsmen.

Air Force DFAC

Airman 1st Class Mohamed Berete, 22nd Force Support Squadron services apprentice, hands a salad to Airman 1st Class Joshua Houseworth, 22nd Contracting Squadron contracting specialist, at the Chisholm Trail Inn dining facility. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Maria A. Ruiz)

Load Toad

A USAF Weapons Loader. He or she sometimes drives a “Jammer.”

Squawks

Notes made by USAF pilots and left for maintenance crews to fix. Because aircraft maintainers are, for the most part, funny, sometimes the crews’ responses are worth compiling.

Prime Beef

Not an actual hunk of meat. A Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force is a rapidly deployable, specialized civil engineer unit. If you’re deployed in an austere location, you want them to be your best friends.

BRRRRRT

The sound an A-10 Thunderbolt II aka “Warthog” makes when projecting freedom.

OPERATION Enduring Freedom

(U.S. Air Force photo)

BTZ

Means “Below the Zone” promotion from E-3 to E-4, or getting that extra stripe before your regular time in service promotion. Squadrons sometimes groom Airmen for this.

AFI 36-2903

This is the regulation for Air Force Dress and Appearance Standards, and is usually the only Air Force Instruction most Airmen actually know, can remember when asked, or have ever read. 

The Gauntlet – aka “Tacking On”

Enlisted Air Force personnel wear their rank on the sleeves of their ABUs. When they are promoted, their new rank is “tacked on.” The Airman’s peers stand in two lines, the new rank patches are pinned to the Airman’s uniform, and the promotee walks down the line as his coworkers punch them as hard as possible in the rank.

Photo: 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin/USAF

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team performs June 26, 2014, at Mount Rushmore. The Drill Team recently completed a nine-day, seven-city, 10-performance tour across the Midwest with the U.S. Air Force Band’s rock ensemble Max Impact. During the tour, the two groups performed in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin)

Whole-Airman Concept

An enlisted performance review system designed to keep you from earning a perfect rating (and ultimately a BTZ promotion) despite being the best performer in your unit at your actual job function, because you didn’t volunteer to pick up trash at the squadron commander’s mandatory fun burger burn.

FOD Walks

FOD is Foreign Object Debris, anything on the flightline that doesn’t belong there and could damage the aircraft. Entire units sometimes walk shoulder to shoulder picking up whatever FOD they find. Airmen in non-flightline roles will sometimes be assigned to augment FOD walks.

First Shirt or “Shirt”

The unit First Sergeant. There are a lot of theories as to why, but there’s no real consensus.

air force missile

Capt. Patrick Applegate, an Airman with the 23rd Bomb Squadron currently deployed with the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, removes ground safety pins on a MAU-12 Jan. 29, prior to a B-52H Stratofortress live drop mission for exercise Tropic Fury. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

Operation Golden Flow

Being “randomly selected” to have someone watch you pee for drug use testing.

Why Not Minot?

Universally regarded as the most unpleasant duty station due to its extreme remoteness, Minot Air Force Base’s staff use this phrase to laugh at their situation because otherwise the terrorists win. The entire Air Force recognizes this phrase and it’s reply: Freezin’s the reason! In the SAC days, they would say “there’s a woman behind every tree!” There were no trees.

JP-8

Jet fuel. Smells like freedom.

Prop Wash and Flight Line

A fool’s errand given to new enlisted airmen, similar to a snipe hunt or the Army’s “box of grid squares.”

Photo Credit: US Air Force

Staff Sgt. Nathan A. Hruska fires his Beretta M9 pistol during a weapons qualification Aug. 15, 2014, at Operation Northern Strike in Alpena, Mich. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

Wing King

The Wing-level Commander — usually the base commander — who is always 0-6 or above. Sometimes the highest ranking person on the base, though some bases have multiple wings, missions, etc.

Breaking Red

Walking outside the designated personnel areas (marked in red) on the flightline or not using designated entry and exit control areas. Breaking Red will result in youtr face pressed to the ground with a boot on your back and an M-16 pointed at your neck (aka Eating Ramp). Security Forces love it when people do this.

LOX

Liquid oxygen used in aircraft oxygen systems, run by environmental management techs. Sometimes used to cool beer. (Update: Some readers did not realize this is a joke. Using LOX to cool beer is a bad idea.)

IYAAYAS

Every career field and unit has its own slang, motto, and/or culture. IYAAYAS is the most widely-known and is the official rally cry of the USAF Munitions Specialists and means “If You Ain’t Ammo, You Ain’t Shit.” Others include “Who the hell, POL” (fuels) and “No Comm, No Bomb” (Communications).

A US Army soldier moves to MEDEVAC a simulated casualty during a military exercise testing the Dustoff crew's capability.

US Army Staff Sgt. Scott Graham, a medic with the 214th Aviation Regiment (Air Ambulance), carries a litter and a backboard from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to extract a simulated patient during a medical evacuation mission. (US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Reed)

Port Dawg

Aerial Porters who rig cargo, parachutes, prepare airdrops and load/unload aircraft are technically “Air Transportation Specialists” but are referred to as Port Dawgs.

Army Proof

Derivative of “Fool Proof,” this is how Airmen lord our higher ASVAB score requirements over the Army. Every time a grunt says “Chair Force,” an Air Force PJ gains one of their IQ points.

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